I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but our planet isn’t doing so hot. Islands are disappearing beneath the sea, widespread regions are facing year after year of devastating droughts, and one of the largest countries on Earth is so polluted that its inhabitants are getting sick just by breathing.
Instead of brushing away the unpleasant, overwhelming truth of climate change, it’s time to accept it. Luckily for all of humankind, there are many talented, inspired people who are working to make sustainable living the standard rather than the outlier. Here are four of those people.
Coming in at the top of the list is the face of space, the 12-billion-dollar-man, the awe-inspiring genius, Elon Musk. Musk isn’t a household name yet, but even if you don’t know his name, you probably already benefit from his genius. Musk is the founder of SpaceX, founder of SolarCity, co-founder of Paypal, and CEO and product architect at Tesla Motors, Inc.
Musk is everywhere right now. Just this week, we saw one of Musk’s latest ideas come to life when Hyperloop One completed its first public test run. The Hyperloop One came from Musk’s design for a jet propulsion system for the world's first high-speed, tube-based public transit system.
Musk has certainly made an impact in the renewable energy sector before: Tesla created the first fully electric sports car, followed by an electric luxury sedan and a crossover SUV. But Musk’s company SpaceX makes his work with renewable resources (solar powered energy, Tesla energy batteries, and electric cars) look like child’s play.
According to the incredibly succinct, comically simple description on the website, “SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.”
Yes, you read that correctly — live on other planets. Just in case Musk’s work in renewable resources and sustainable living doesn’t pay off, he wants a backup plan. If you don’t know his name, now is the time to brush up, because his laundry list of contributions to society is about to go from “Wow, neat!” to “Holy sh*t!”
Al Gore is on a mission. It’s simple, really: he wants to raise awareness, incite action, and thrust change upon the world in order to ensure that we have a world. The former Vice President has long been linked to climate change, and his push for utilizing renewable resources has made great strides in creating international discourse on global warming.
In 2005, Vice President Gore founded the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit dedicated to solving global warming through international leadership training and media events created to raise awareness. Gore is the subject of the 2006 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary on social media by comparing the state of the climate crisis from 2006 to today.
Gore also was a co-recipient, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for “informing the world of dangers posed by climate change.”
Annie Leonard created the film The Story Of Stuff in 2007 to educate the world on what happens when we continue to accumulate, throw away, and then buy even more stuff. After working for Greenpeace International (among several other environmental health organizations) and witnessing the devastation caused by our consumerist economy, she created a 20-minute movie to inform viewers about where our stuff comes from, and where it goes once we toss it.
Her initial movie was so successful that she created the Story of Stuff Project in 2008. By explaining the process of producing and disposing everyday items in the form of short online movies — such as The Story of Bottled Water and The Story of Electronics — Leonard is driving home the responsibility on the individual to make a difference. But she doesn’t simply highlight the problem or shame viewers for buying things; instead, she offers solutions, and encourages viewers to explore more sustainable living options.
Leonard currently acts as Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, international best-selling author, and relentless social activist. Klein investigates the most pressing events of our generation and how they intersect to create a spiderweb of corruption.
Klein doesn’t accept the decline of our planet. Instead of waxing poetic to inspire action for topics like global warming, Klein examines the underlying causes.
Klein’s fourth book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, is a New York Times bestseller that links global warming to economics and politics in a way that other writers are too scared to touch. Klein’s dedication to exposing the truth has earned her a slew of honors, including the 2015 Izzy Award, which celebrates outstanding achievement in independent journalism and media. Klein also frequently appears on international influencer lists, including the 2014 Thought Leaders ranking, which was compiled by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. (Elon Musk and Al Gore also made the cut in 2014.)
Klein is a member of the board of directors for 350.org, a global grassroots movement dedicated to putting a stop to global warming.